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Gay rights:Trans-forming Pittsburgh's Trans Community

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The local transgender community is adding a weekend of seminars and celebration to its annual Day of Remembrance, begun last year to recognize victims of discrimination.

 

"Our community deserves [it]," says organizer Miranda Kent, 33, of McMurray. Kent, who chairs the board of development of the Pittsburgh Transsexual Support Group, says being a trans person brings up important issues not only for the individual but for his or her family, friends and employer. Kent hopes the free Steel City Gender Conference on Sat., Nov. 19, as well as the Day of Remembrance worship service the next evening, will reach local trans people as well as sympathetic church groups and members of the general public who may have questions.

 

"In Pittsburgh, there's really nothing offered to trans people" apart from the Persad clinic and the work of several local doctors, says Kent.

Panelists at the conference include a counselor from Persad, the local agency focused on the mental health of sexual minorities, as well as a doctor and a leading trans support group official. The seminars spotlight everything from reviews of current legislation affecting trans people to panels discussing types of surgery and other medical issues. There will also be a panel of cross dressers, which, according to organizer Emilia Lombardi, may be a first step toward transgender for some people. "But not all," emphasizes Lombardi, 37, of Swissvale. Spirituality will be the focus for a session as well.

The weekend's activities start Fri., Nov. 18, with a performance at the Andy Warhol Museum by author Kate Bornstein (see Lit Briefs, page 42).

Kent emphasizes that issues that have embroiled the gay community, such as the gay-marriage fight, are often transgender issues too. In Pennsylvania, she says, a marriage is voided should one partner complete a transition from one gender to the other. "But parties stay together through this," she adds.

Lombardi hopes the weekend will "bring other trans people together - to say we are together and we will not accept the violence and discrimination that many people experience."

She experienced discrimination herself, she says, after joining a local gym. "One day the owner pulled me aside and pretty bluntly asked what my deal was," she says. "He used my emergency contact information to call my parents to find out whether I was trans. He said I had to pretty much get a letter from a doctor saying I was physically a woman.

"I've known people who have been physically attacked," she says. "I've had a friend who had somebody push her out in front of a bus. I've known quite a few people who have lost their jobs because they are trans."

It's hard to say how many are trans locally. "It's an iceberg," she says. "There's a majority spread out with no way to count."

And, too, it may be hard for someone who is not transgender to understand exactly what community members go through.

 

"I told one of my brothers," says Kent, "if you want to know what I feel like, wear a dress. I bet you'll feel uncomfortable. This isn't even close to how I feel."

Kate Bornstein, Fri., Nov. 18, Andy Warhol Museum, 6-10 p.m.; Steel City Gender Conference, Sat., Nov. 19, Holiday Inn Select, Oakland, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; National Day of Remembrance Service, Sun., Nov. 20, 7-9 p.m. See www.pghdor.org.

-- Marty Levine

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